Operation: Opération: Burundi



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Key Figures

2020 year-end results
49,910 camp-based refugees had access to primary health care
40,900 Burundian returnees were assisted to return home
4,943 refugee survivors of gender-based violence received appropriate support
3,240 refugee children under 12 months old were issued birth certificates
100% of refugees identified in need of resettlement were submitted for resettlement (970 cases)
2021 planning figures
142,890 Burundian returnees will receive basic assistance, including transportation assistance and core relief items
100% refugee and returnee children below one year of age will receive birth certificates by the authorities
100% of asylum-seekers and refugees will be provided with individual protection documentation
95% of refugee and returnee children will be enrolled in primary education
80% of asylum-seekers, refugees and returnees with specific needs will be assisted
20% of returnees (18-59 years) will be supported to begin businesses and become self-employed

People of Concern Personnes relevant de la compétence du HCR

Increase in
2020 156,475
2019 144,791
2018 156,392


[["Refugees",75476],["Asylum-seekers",4914],["IDPs",21863],["Returned IDPs",11393],["Returned refugees",40852],["Others of concern",1977]]
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2020 {"categories":[2016,2017,2018,2019,2020,2021],"budget":[34.53884162,33.81553606,33.00214314,50.92459511,56.76049354,72.47459590000001],"expenditure":[17.32505948,19.60250263,27.31731118,22.35627834,30.10845002,null]} {"categories":[2016,2017,2018,2019,2020,2021],"p1":[28.50049693,29.424409609999998,32.49367779,46.82598187,52.66187944,35.4226089],"p2":[0.92834469,0.007075,null,0.012017,0.012017,0.012017],"p3":[null,null,null,2,2,35.285751],"p4":[5.11,4.38405145,0.5084653499999999,2.08659624,2.0865971,1.754219]} {"categories":[2016,2017,2018,2019,2020,2021],"p1":[15.49302301,17.78705999,26.84660657,22.277896050000003,29.247697719999998,null],"p2":[0.12217789999999999,null,null,null,null,null],"p3":[null,null,null,null,null,null],"p4":[1.70985857,1.8154426399999999,0.47070460999999997,0.07838229,0.8607523,null]}
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  • 2014
  • 2015
  • 2016
  • 2017
  • 2018
  • 2019
  • 2020
  • 2021

Operational context

In 2020, important developments linked to the general election and its aftermath impacted the political, social, and security situation in Burundi. Upon taking office, the new administration committed to an inter-Burundian dialogue for reconciliation, while also re-engaging with the international community for multilateral cooperation, including UNHCR. This had a positive impact on the management of the Burundian repatriation programme, which was able to resume during the last quarter of 2020, with the overall security situation having stabilized considerably, allowing Burundian refugees in neighboring countries to begin returning home in larger numbers.  

From the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, UNHCR implemented a wide range of preventive and response measures to mitigate the impact of the pandemic. These were in line with the inter-agency Humanitarian Response Plan, the UN Sustainable Development Framework 2019-2023, the Regional Refugee Response Plan for Congolese refugees, and the UNHCR-UNDP Joint Refugee Return and Reintegration Plan for Burundian refugees.

Population trends

The total number of refugees and asylum-seekers in Burundi in 2020 stood at 80,390, representing a 75% decrease in the number new asylum-seekers arrivals compared to 2019, largely attributed to COVID-19-related border closures.

Nearly 128,000 Burundians remained internally displaced throughout the year, including 81% displaced largely due to natural disasters (floods) and 19% for socio-political reasons.

Burundi was also host to 764 Omani nationals who were at risk of statelessness. A verification process which ended in March 2020, confirmed a decrease of 22% compared to the 2016 verification exercise, although explanations for the significant decrease are not yet well understood.

Key achievements

  • 37 classrooms were constructed across the five refugee camps, with nearly 20,000 children benefiting from these new classrooms.
  • 10 COVID-19 isolation units were installed and equipped (five in the refugee camps and five in the transit centers).
  • Large solar powered water pumping systems were installed in the Musasa (8,258 population) and Kinama (7,296 population) camps to successfully resolve water supply challenges.
  • 520 hand-washing stations were installed throughout the five refugee camps and the entire population was sensitized on COVID-19 prevention measures.
  • 40,900 Burundian refugees were assisted to return home. Of those, 21,091benefited from a larger cash grant component of the returnee package (increasing from $75 per adult and $35 per child to $150 per adult and $75 per child) as of October 2020.
  • UNHCR was also able to provide non-food items to 500 IDP households displaced by the flooding of Lake Tanganyika. 

Unmet needs

  • The Burundi operation was only 46% funded by the end of 2020. The lack of funding impacted the level of assistance that was provided in both urban and camp refugee settings. General distribution of non-food items has not taken place in any of the refugee camps since 2012.
  • Cash assistance could not be implemented in 2020 due to underfunding as well as market constraints.
  • UNHCR was not able to conduct any reintegration activities due to resource constraints. 

Use of flexible funding (unearmarked or softly earmarked funding)

  • With flexible funding, UNHCR was able to accommodate unplanned return convoys from Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, which started respectively in August and September 2020 (7,896 returnees from Rwanda and 1,946 returnees from the Democractic Republic of the Congo in 2020).
  • UNHCR was also able to provide non-food items to 500 IDP households displaced by the flooding of Lake Tanganyika. 

Working environment

Ahead of the 2020 elections, the political and working environments in Burundi remain complex. There are reports of tension between the Government and the opposition parties, along with human rights violations. Socio-economic conditions remain dire.
Despite the challenging environment, the Burundian government maintains an open-door policy towards refugees and asylum-seekers. New arrivals, mainly from the DRC, are received regularly. Refugees can access basic social services, such as health and education, but lack sufficient resources to cover their needs, even with UNHCR’s support. Work opportunities are limited, meaning most refugees are reliant on humanitarian assistance. 
While UNHCR is not promoting the return of Burundian refugees, it will assist those who opt to return voluntarily. It has encouraged development actors to invest in key return areas, helping with reintegration. While more than 75,000 Burundian refugees have returned, fewer are expected in 2020 due to pre-election concerns and unfavourable living conditions.
The Burundi Government provides land and water access to five refugee camps and eight transit facilities. In addition, civil documentation is provided free of charge to people of concern.
UNHCR works closely with the UN country team on humanitarian response, leading the protection working group and co-leading the shelter and non-food items working group with IOM.  UNHCR works in the framework of the Regional Refugee Response Plans, including the plan for the Congolese situation.
Together with UNDP and other UN agencies, UNHCR coordinated the Joint Refugee Return and Reintegration Plan, which highlights the need to invest in basic services in return areas. UNHCR has been part of the UNDAF 2019-2023 and has ensured that refugees are mainstreamed into all initiatives aimed at strengthening the resilience of vulnerable populations, in line with the Global Compact on Refugees.
The operation will intensify its external engagement efforts and develop relations with local donors, including development institutions.

Key priorities

In 2020, UNHCR will:
  • Provide protection and assistance, including basic services. to people of concern, including pursuing durable solutions.
  • Preserve the civilian and humanitarian character of asylum, and ensure respect for the principle of non-refoulement.
  • Develop empowerment and resilience-building initiatives, including support for livelihoods;
  • Support voluntary repatriation of Burundian refugees to ensure their safe and dignified return and their inclusion in sustainable reintegration initiatives.
Latest contributions
  • 25-NOV-2021
    United States of America

    private donors

  • 24-NOV-2021
  • Germany
  • 23-NOV-2021
    United States of America

    private donors

  • 22-NOV-2021
    United States of America

    private donors

  • Japan

    private donors

  • 18-NOV-2021

    private donors

  • Argentina
  • Romania
  • Qatar
  • United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland
  • 17-NOV-2021

    private donors

  • Germany
  • 15-NOV-2021
    United Arab Emirates

    private donors

  • 12-NOV-2021
  • 11-NOV-2021
  • Angola
  • 09-NOV-2021
  • 08-NOV-2021
  • Hungary